A1) At the end of December 2021, there were 39.0 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain, a 1.2 per cent increase compared to the end of December 2020.
Cars make up the majority of licensed vehicles. In Great Britain, there were 31.9 million cars (81.7 per cent), 4.4 million LGVs (11.3 per cent), 0.5 million HGVs (1.3 per cent), 1.3 million motorcycles (3.4 per cent), 0.14 million buses & coaches (0.4 per cent) and 0.78 million other vehicles (2 per cent) licensed at the end of December 2021.
The total number of licensed vehicles has increased in all but two years (1991 & 2020) since the end of the Second World War.
Historical details about the number of licensed vehicles can be viewed in table VEH0101.
In the last 25 years, van traffic has seen the fastest growth (in percentage terms) of any motor vehicle, increasing 106 per cent to 55.5 billion vehicle miles in 2019.This rapid rise in van traffic now means that van traffic as a proportion of all motor vehicle miles has increased from 10 per cent to 16 per cent over the same period.
The number of vans in Great Britain has also increased substantially over the last 25 years, increasing 93 per cent from 2.1 million licensed vans in 1994 to 4.1 million licensed vans in 2019.
Van traffic grew by 2.0 per cent between 2018 and 2019.
The statistics below also detail van activity in Great Britain.
A3) At the end of 2021, the most common licensed car was the Ford Fiesta, with 1.49 million cars licensed, followed by the Ford Focus with 1.11 million and the Vauxhall Corsa and Vauxhall Golf both with 1.03 million.
A4) At the end of December 2021, about 35 per cent of registered keepers of licensed cars were female. Over the last 10 years, the number of licensed cars registered to female keepers increased by 16 per cent, compared with an increase of 10 per cent for those registered to male keepers.
A5) The average car or van in England is driven just 4 per cent of the time, a figure that has barely changed in quarter of a century.
For the rest of the time the car or van is either parked at home (73 per cent) or parked elsewhere (23 per cent), for example at work.
Source: RAC Foundation: Standing Still
A6) In England in 2020, 12 per cent of household vehicles were parked in a garage overnight; 61 per cent were parked on private property (but not garaged); 24 per cent were parked on the street; and 3 per cent were parked in other places.
Since 2002, the proportion of respondents parking vehicles in garages has decreased from 22 per cent to 12 per cent and the proportion parking elsewhere on private property has increased by about the same amount (from 50 per cent to 61 per cent).
A7) No. The cars on Britain’s roads have, on average, got larger over time, both in width and in length. In 1965 the top five models sold in the UK had an average width of 1.5m and average length of 3.9m, compared to an average width of 1.8m and length of 4.3m for the top five sellers of 2020. Despite this, the typical garage door width for a domestic property is around 2.1m, leaving just 0.15m on either side of the average car in 2020.
While there is no extensive data on the changes in domestic garage dimensions over time, through evidence provided by various councils it can be seen that garage size poses a problem for anyone wanting to use their garage to park their car, and not merely in older residential developments. It comes as no surprise, then, that the ‘garage’ in many homes ends up being converted into a room, or simply serves as a storage shed. This view is borne out by an RAC study from 2014 which revealed that 62 per cent of households use their garage for purposes other than parking a car. Of the 38 per cent choosing to use their garage for its intended purpose, one in five had a hard time getting their car in, owing to limited dimensions.
Source: RAC Foundation: Standing Still
A8) 18 million (65 per cent) of Britain’s 27.6 million households have – or could have – enough off-street parking to accommodate at least one car or van?
Breaking the numbers down:
- Wales – 75 per cent of households have – or could have – off-street parking and electric vehicle charging
- England (excluding London) 68 per cent
- Scotland – 63 per cent
- London – 44 per cent
- Great Britain – 65 per cent
Details of the proportion of homes with – or with the potential to have – off-street parking by both local authority area and Westminster parliamentary constituency can be viewed in the report.
Source: RAC Foundation: Standing Still
A9) The average age of a licensed car in the United Kingdom was 8.8 years at the end of 2021.
A10) In the average car’s lifetime, it will have 4 owners.
Source: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – Motorparc Census
A11) The commercial fleet and company car market is a primary driver of new registrations for cars. During 2021, 55.3 per cent of cars registered for the first time had a company keeper. However, the proportion of licensed cars at the end of 2021 kept by companies was much lower at only 8.1 per cent. This is due to company-kept cars typically moving to become privately-kept after the car is around three years old.
The proportion of licensed cars with company keepers in Great Britain has remained within the range 8 per cent to 10 per cent since 1994.
A12) 1,647,181 new cars entered the UK market in 2021. This was a 1 per cent increase over the 1,631,064 new cars registered in 2020 but still represents the second lowest year for the registration of new cars since 1992. The figures underline the ongoing impact of Covid and the semiconductor shortage on the industry, with the market down 28.7 per cent on pre-pandemic new car registrations in 2019.
A13) For the fourth year in a row, grey retained its position as the UK’s favourite new car colour in 2021. 408,155 grey cars were sold over the course of 2021, accounting for a quarter (24.8 per cent) of the market. Black, the most popular car paint in Britain from 2009 to 2012, was the second most popular colour (20.5 per cent) while white was in third place (17.2 per cent). More than six in 10 (62.4 per cent) of all new cars joining British roads in 2021 were painted in one of these shades, although blue edged closer to the top three, increasing its sales for the first time in five years and trailing just 2,638 units behind white.
The rest of the top 10 remained largely unchanged from 2020, although green overtook orange to gain seventh place. Sales of green cars rose for the first time since 2015, with 24.0 per cent more buyers opting for the colour than in the previous year.
A14) In 2021:-
- 32,648 cars were sold to businesses (companies that operate up to 24 vehicles) – a fall of 4.7 per cent from 34,238 in 2020;
- 812,029 cars were sold to fleets (companies that operate fleets of 25 or more vehicles) – a fall of 4.4 per cent from 849,309 in 2020; and
- 802,504 cars were sold to private buyers – an increase of 7.4 per cent from 747,507 in 2020.
A15) The UK’s used car market grew by 11.5 per cent in 2021. 7,530,956 used car transactions took place, 777,997 more than in 2020 (6,752,959 transactions). Despite this growth, the 2021 performance was still 5.5 per cent below the pre-pandemic five-year average.
Annual demand for battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles hit record levels, growing by 119.2 per cent and 75.6 per cent to 40,228 and 56,861 transactions respectively. Hybrid electric vehicle transactions also rose by 50.3 per cent to 137,639, a new high. Used petrol and diesel powertrain transactions, meanwhile, increased by 10.7 per cent and 9.8 per cent respectively, with a combined 7,277,291 units changing hands. This meant that even with record demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles, 96.6 per cent of all used car sales were still either petrol or diesel models
A16) UK car production in 2021 fell 6.7 per cent to only 859,575 units, the worst total since 1956. Output was 61,353 less than 2020, which itself was badly affected by coronavirus lockdowns, and 34.0 per cent below pre-pandemic 2019.
Despite this, British car factories produced a record number of battery electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid electric vehicles turning out almost a quarter of a million (224,011) of these zero and ultra-low emission vehicles, representing more than one-in-four (26.1 per cent) of all cars made.
705,826 cars were shipped worldwide – 82.1 per cent of total production.
A17) In February 2022, the total number of driving licences registered with DVLA was 50,272,583. Of these, 41,075,262 were full driving entitlement licences and 9,197,321 were provisional entitlement licences. These figures are for the whole of Great Britain.
It should be stressed that neither DVLA or DfT would recommend that users rely on this data being a true reflection of the number of active driving licence holders in Great Britain as the DVLA data includes details of people who have died, emigrated etc and who have not been removed from the DVLA database.
Source: Driving Licence Data
More robust estimates of active driving licence holders are available from the National Travel Survey. Latest estimates show that about 80 per cent of all adults aged 17 and over in England (an estimated 35.9 million people) held a full car driving licence in 2020. In 1975/76, the proportion of adults with a licence in Great Britain was estimated at 48 per cent (an estimated 19.4 million people).
Of the 35.9 million people holding a full car driving licence in England, 18.3 million are men and 17.6 million women. Whilst, over the long term, licence holding among both men and women has increased, the rate of increase has been much greater for women. In 1975/76, 69 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women in Great Britain were estimated to have a driving licence. In 2020, 83 per cent of men and 77 per cent of women in England are estimated to have a driving licence.
A18) In 2020, 28 per cent of men and women aged 17 – 20 held a full licence. This was down 7 per cent from the previous year and is the lowest percentage figure since 2004.
More young men (29 per cent) held a full driving licence than young women (28 per cent) in 2020.
A19) There has been a large increase in the number of older people in England holding a full driving licence. Between 1995/1997 and 2020 the proportion of people aged 70+ holding a licence increased from 39 per cent to 77 per cent. This is due to aging of existing licence holders rather than large numbers of newly qualified drivers in older age groups.
The increase among older women is particularly notable: 83 per cent of women aged 60-69 and 68 per cent aged 70+ held a licence in 2020 compared with 46 per cent and 22 per cent in 1995/97 respectively.
A20) According to DVLA data there are also now just over five million people aged 70 or more in Great Britain who hold a full licence. While not all of these licence holders will be active drivers, the statistics illustrate the growing number of older people who still use a car.
Source: RAC Foundation analysis of DVLA data.
A21) Almost one in five (19 per cent) job adverts say that applicants must be able to drive.
Analysis by the RAC Foundation of a snapshot of the government’s Find a Job database found that of the 182,062 vacancies on offer on the 14 September 2018, 34,067 (19 per cent) stated that having a car or licence was a requirement.
The professions that required applicants to have the ability to drive were as diverse as: carer, professional driver, cleaner, chef, sales consultant, security guard, business development manager, gymnastics coach and electrician.
The RAC Foundation also analysed the vacancies listed on the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s apprenticeship database. This showed that one in twelve (8 per cent) apprenticeships needed the applicant to have a car or licence.
The findings are in line to a similar study carried out by the Foundation back in 2015.
A22) About 79 per cent.
There have been significant long-term increases in the proportion of households with access to a car or van. The proportion of households without a car has fallen from 48 per cent in 1971 (based on the Census) to 21 per cent in 2020, while the proportion of households with access to more than one car or van increased over this period from 8 per cent to 36 per cent.
Since 2000, there have been more households with two or more cars or vans than households with no car or van.
A23) In 2020, 85 per cent of adults in England lived in a household with a car or van. This differed very slightly between men and women (85 per cent and 84 per cent respectively).
A24) Research carried out by the RAC Foundation (based on 2011 Census data) shows that of the 348 English and Welsh local authorities, the East Dorset District Council area has the highest number of cars and vans per head of population.
For every thousand people – men, women and children – living in East Dorset, there are 694 cars. This compares with an average of 487 cars and vans per thousand people as a whole. By contrast, Hackney has the fewest at 170 cars and vans per thousand people.
A25) Urban households.
Three quarters of SUVs sold in the UK are registered to urban households according to analysis of data from 2019 and 2020 by the think tank New Weather Institute and climate charity Possible.
According to the report, “rather than large SUVs being most popular in remote farming regions, six of the top ten areas for new sales are urban or suburban districts. Although these vehicles have 4-wheel-drive and off-road capability, the top three districts for large SUVs are inner London boroughs. These include Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Westminster. On average, the report found that one in three new private cars bought in these areas is a large SUV.
A26) The RAC Foundation’s report entitled “The Car in British Society” showed that the dominance of the car as a mode of transport in the early years of the 21st Century is absolute and that policy makers must recognise this fact as they introduce measures to cut traffic and hence ease congestion and fight climate change.
The car continues to dominate most people’s daily travel. In 2020, 58 per cent of trips were made by car, either as a driver or passenger. The car is also the most common mode for distance travelled, accounting for 81 per cent of the total distance travelled in 2018.
Car use (both as driver and passenger) accounts for only 8 per cent of the trips under half a mile in length but rises to 76 per cent of all trips in the 2 – 3 mile band and 80 per cent of trips longer than five miles in length; above one mile, more than half of all trips are by car.
Source: The Car in British Society
The Commission for Integrated Transport noted in its “Medium-length Trip Patterns” report that 42 per cent of car mileage was driven on medium-length car trips (defined as 5 – 25 miles).
A27) Across Great Britain, those who usually travel to work by car in 2020 accounted for 68 per cent of commuting journeys by all modes. This varied by region, with only 27 per cent of those living in London reporting using a car for their commute.
The percentage of workers usually travelling to work by car by region of workplace in 2020 can be seen below.
|GB Country||English Region||Proportion|
|Yorkshire & Humber||76%|
|East of England||77%|
The issue was also considered in a RAC Foundation report The Car and the Commute.
A28) The estimated average annual mileage per car in England has decreased as the number of cars per household has risen, falling from around 9,200 miles in 2002 to 6,800 miles in 2020.
There are different trends depending on whether the car is company or privately owned. Company cars have an annual mileage about double that of private cars – 13,200 compared to 6,700 in 2020.
The estimated average annual mileage was higher for diesel cars than petrol cars, at 8,400 miles and 5,900 miles respectively in 2020.
A29) An analysis carried out by the RAC Foundation shows that the newest cars in Great Britain do an average of 10,377 miles in each of the first three years after they are registered. This is the equivalent of 28 miles per day. (Private cars are required to start having annual MOTs once they are three years old. At that point the mileage is recorded by the test venue and it is this information that has been used in the research).
However, there are big differences between cars of varying make, model and fuel type. The results show that new diesel cars cover an average of 12,496 miles in each of their first three years. This is 67% more than new petrol cars which only do an average of 7,490 miles per year. Pure battery electric cars are driven an average of 9,435 miles per year.
Full details of the average annual mileage of new cars in each of their first 3 years by make, model and fuel type can be viewed here.
Source: RAC Foundation
A30) Road traffic trends during 2020 have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK so comparing traffic estimates for 2020 with the previous calendar year can be misleading. Vehicle miles travelled in Great Britain have had year-on-year growth in each year between 2010 and 2019. However, the sharp decrease in 2020 has resulted in traffic estimates that are lower than the 2010 levels. Therefore, to say traffic has fallen over the last decade would misconstrue as the overall decrease is entirely due to the decline in traffic levels observed in the 2020 estimates.
280.5 billion vehicle miles (bvm) were driven on Great Britain’s roads in 2020, a decrease of 21.3 per cent compared to the previous year’s figure of 356.5 bvm. Car traffic decreased by 24.7 per cent from 2019 levels. The figure of 209.6 bvm is the lowest annual estimate of car traffic in the last 29 years; van traffic decreased by 9.1 per cent from 2019 to 50.5 bvm, the lowest level for 5 years; and lorry traffic decreased by 5.7 per cent compared to 2019. At 16.4 bvm, this was the lowest level since 2014.
Motorways carried 52.7 bvm of traffic, decreasing by 25.3 per cent compared to 2019; the Strategic Road Network carried 72.6 bvm of traffic, a decrease of 25.1 per cent on 2019 levels; ‘A’ roads saw a 23.2 per cent decrease in traffic from 2019; and minor road traffic decreased by 17.2 per cent from 2019.
Provisional estimates show motor vehicles travelled 299.3 billion vehicle miles in Great Britain for the year ending September 2021. All motor vehicle traffic was broadly stable compared to the year ending September 2020 (+0.4 per cent) but was 16.1 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels (the year ending December 2019).
Compared to the year ending September 2020, in the year ending September 2021:
- car traffic decreased by 1.7 per cent to 222.3 billion vehicle miles
- van and lorry traffic increased by 7.3 per cent and 8.9 per cent, respectively
- motorway traffic decreased by 1.4 per cent
- ’A’ road traffic increased by 0.6 per cent
- minor road traffic increased by 1.1 per cent
Data since March 2020 are affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK. This should be considered when comparing them with previous time periods.
A31) Road Traffic Forecasts 2018 present the latest forecasts for traffic demand, congestion and emissions in England and Wales up to the year 2050. Within these forecasts, seven plausible scenarios have been constructed that reflect the uncertainty in the key drivers of road traffic demand.
Across all scenarios, traffic in England and Wales is forecast to increase but the size of that growth depends on the assumptions made about the key drivers of future road demand. From 2015 traffic is forecast to grow by between 17 per cent and 51 per cent by 2050. The growth in traffic levels is predominately driven by the projected growth in population levels (and thus the number of trips) and decreases in vehicle running costs
Car traffic is forecast to grow between 11 per cent and 43 per cent by 2050, whilst van traffic is forecast to continue growing significantly in all scenarios (between 23 per cent and 108 per cent). HGV traffic growth is forecast to be lower than 7 other vehicle types, with growth ranging from 5 per cent to 12 per cent by 2050.
Congestion is forecast to grow as a result of increases in traffic. The proportion of traffic in congested conditions in 2050 is forecast to range from 8 per cent to 16 per cent depending on the scenario. The average car journey taking 17 minutes in 2015 could increase to 20 minutes in 2050.
The average speed during all periods is forecast to fall from 34mph in 2015 to as low as 31mph. The average delay per vehicle mile during all periods is forecast to increase by up to approximately 11 seconds per mile (69 per cent) by 2050.
Source: Road Traffic Forecasts 2018
A32) The second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) was published by the government in March 2020. It sets a long-term strategic vision for the network and specifies the performance standards Highways England must meet; lists planned enhancement schemes that are expected to be built; and states the funding that will be made available during the second Road Period (RP2), covering the financial years 2020/21 to 2024/25.
In total, RIS2 commits the Government to spend £27.4 billion during RP2. Some of this will be used to build new road capacity, but much more will be used to improve the quality and reduce the negative impacts of the existing Strategic Roads Network.
The Strategy document can be viewed here.
The Government has also announced plans to double the Strategic Road Network to around 8,000 miles to create a new Major Road Network (MRN) which will include many routes which are under the control of councils. Details can be viewed here.
A33) In 2021, there were 247,800 miles of road in Great Britain. This was 2,800 more miles than a decade earlier in 2011 (a 1.1 per cent increase), and 4,900 more miles than in 2001 (a 2.0 per cent increase).
There were 31,900 miles of major road in Great Britain in 2021, consisting of 2,300 miles of motorway and 29,500 miles of ‘A’ roads. These major roads make up about 13 per cent of the total road length.
The majority of road lengths in Great Britain is made up of minor roads, with these roads accounting for 216,000 miles in 2020, consisting of:18,900 miles of ‘B’ road and 197,100 miles of ‘C’ and ‘U’ roads. These minor roads make up about 87 per cent of the total road length.
A34) Of the 247,800 miles of road in Great Britain in 2021, 190,000 miles (77 per cent) of road were in England, 36,800 miles (15 per cent) were in Scotland, and 21,000 miles (8 per cent) were in Wales.
The road networks for Scotland and Wales account for a higher proportion of all road length in Great Britain compared to the population of these countries, which are more sparsely populated.
Within England, the regions with the largest amount of road length were the South West, which had 31,420 miles, and the South East, with 30,248 miles.
A35) There are still more than five and a half thousand miles of road in Britain where drivers would find it impossible to call for help in case of a crash or breakdown because there is no mobile phone voice coverage from any network provider.
The stretches of road – measuring 5,540 in total – represent 2 per cent of the length of Britain’s overall road network – which is 245,705 miles long.
According to the RAC Foundation analysis, a further 44,368 miles of road (18 per cent) have only partial voice coverage meaning there are many areas where some but not all phones will receive a signal depending on the service provider they rely on.
A36) In 2020, 52.7 billion vehicle miles were carried on motorways; 76.6 billion vehicle miles on rural “A” roads; 38.8 billion vehicle miles on urban “A” roads; 43.7 billion vehicle miles on rural minor roads; and 68.7 billion vehicle miles on urban minor roads.
Motorway traffic decreased by 25.3 per cent between 2019 and 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Nevertheless, 19 per cent of all vehicle miles were driven on motorways.
Traffic volumes are not proportionate to road lengths. In 2020, 60 per cent of the motor vehicle miles travelled were on motorways and ‘A’ roads, despite these roads comprising only 13 per cent of the road network by length. On an average day in 2020, 44 times more vehicles travelled along a typical stretch of motorway than a typical stretch of a minor road (‘B’ roads, ‘C’ roads and unclassifed roads).
A37) A journey analysis undertaken in November 2019 showed that only a small proportion (14 per cent) of car and taxi trips on the M25 – one of the longest and busiest ring roads in the world – bypass London completely and are made by people travelling from one part of the country to another.
The vast majority (74 per cent) of car and taxi trips that include the M25 actually start or end in London.
The remaining proportion (12 per cent) of car and van trips are so-called intra-London movements, meaning the journeys both start and end in the capital but use the 117-mile-long orbital motorway as part of the route.
The analysis also revealed that of the strategic routes “feeding” the M25, the M1 was the most significant, followed by the M4, M3, M40 and A2.
Full details can be viewed here.
A38) A smart motorway is a section of a motorway that uses technology to monitor and manage the flow of traffic permanently or at particularly busy times of the day. The technology is controlled from the National Highway’s regional control centres which can activate and change signs and variable speed limits. A map showing where smart motorways are operating can be viewed here.
There are currently three different types of smart motorway:- controlled motorways; dynamic hard shoulder running schemes and all lane running schemes.
Controlled motorways have three or more lanes with variable speed limits but retain a hard shoulder. Variable speed limits are displayed on overhead gantry signs – if no speed limit is displayed the national speed limit is in place. Speed cameras are used to enforce these limits.
Dynamic hard shoulder running involves opening the hard shoulder as a running lane to traffic at busy periods to ease congestion. Overhead signs on gantries indicate whether or not the hard shoulder is open to traffic. The hard shoulder must not be used if the signs over it are blank or display a red X, except in the case of an emergency.
All lane running schemes permanently remove the hard shoulder and convert it into a running lane. These motorways also have overhead gantry signs that display the mandatory speed limit which varies depending on the traffic conditions – if no speed limit is displayed the national speed limit is in place. Speed cameras are used to enforce these limits. Should drivers break down or be involved in an accident there are emergency refuge areas at the side of the carriageway for them to use.
The RAC’s advice on smart motorways, and how to use them, can be viewed here.
A39) Yes. The government announced in January 2022 that in line with the Transport Committee’s most recent recommendations, the rollout of new all lane running (ALR) smart motorways will be paused until a full 5 years’ worth of safety data becomes available for schemes introduced before 2020. After this point, the government will assess the data and make an informed decision on next steps.
While further data is being collected, National Highways will continue work to complete schemes that are currently in construction, which will all open with technology in place to detect stopped vehicles. These schemes are all more than 50 per cent completed and halting progress on them now would cause significant disruption for drivers.
Design work will also continue on those schemes already being planned, so they are ready to be constructed depending on the outcome of the pause. No preparatory construction work will take place.
While the rollout of new ALR motorways is paused, the government will ensure current smart motorways without a permanent hard shoulder are equipped with best-in-class technology and resources to make them as safe as possible. This will include investing £390 million to install more than 150 additional emergency areas so drivers have more places to stop if they get into difficulty. This will represent around a 50 per cent increase in places to stop by 2025.
Also, in line with the committee’s recommendations, National Highways will pause the conversion of dynamic hard shoulder motorways – where the hard shoulder is open at busy times – into all lane running motorways while it investigates alternative ways of operating them to make things simpler for drivers. National Highways will also install technology to detect stopped vehicles on these sections.
A40) Car and taxi traffic accounted for 75 per cent of all motor vehicle traffic in Great Britain in 2020, with light van and Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) traffic accounting for 18 per cent and 6 per cent respectively. Motorcycles/scooters and buses/coaches accounted for 0.9 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively.
Road traffic trends during 2020 have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic so comparing traffic estimates for 2020 with the previous calendar year can be misleading. Against that proviso, and compared with 2019, car and taxi traffic in Great Britain decreased by 24.7 per cent to 209.6 billion vehicle miles in 2020.
Van traffic decreased by 9.1 per cent between 2019 and 2020; lorry traffic decreased by 5.7 per cent between 2019 and 2020, the smallest fall in traffic of all motor vehicle types; bus and coach traffic decreased by 32 per cent between 2019 and 2020 to 1.6 billion vehicle miles, the largest fall of all motor vehicle types; and motorcycle and scooter (excluding e-scooter) traffic fell by 17.5 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year.
A41) About 28 – 30 per cent of HGVs are “driving around empty” at any one time.
A42) Motor vehicle flow statistics give an indication of how busy roads in Great Britain are rather than volume of miles travelled on the road network. They are presented as the average number of vehicles per day per mile of road.
Motorways continued to have the highest average traffic flow in 2020 with 62.0 thousand vehicles for each mile of motorway per day. The average traffic flow on urban “A” roads was 15.0 thousand vehicles for each mile of urban “A” road per day and traffic flows on rural “A” roads were 9.3 thousand vehicles for each mile of rural “A” road per day.
The average traffic flow on urban minor roads was 2.2 thousand vehicles for each mile of urban minor roads per day and traffic flows on rural minor roads were 0.9 thousand vehicles for each mile of rural minor road per day.
A43) The western half of the M25, between Junctions 14 and 15, had the highest average traffic flow in 2020 with 177,000 vehicles per day.
A44) In 2019 the average free flow speed of cars was 69 mph on motorways and 50 mph on national speed limit single carriageways. Vans were observed to have identical average free flow speeds to cars on both of these road types, also having values of 69 mph and 50 mph respectively.
Both cars and vans had an average free flow speed of 31 mph on roads with a speed limit of 30 mph. For all vehicle types on 20 mph roads, the average free flow speed was above the speed limit in 2019, with the highest being motorcycles at 29 mph.
A45) The local authority with the highest traffic level is Essex with 8.056 billion vehicle miles. Essex is followed by Hampshire (7.997 billion vehicle miles) and Kent (7.866 billion vehicle miles).
Of the five local authorities with the highest levels of traffic, three are in the South East region (Hampshire, Kent, Surrey) and the other two are in East of England region (Essex, Hertfordshire). These are all authorities with relatively large road networks, and they all contain some of the major motorways of Great Britain.
A46) The A458 heading towards Snowdonia sees the biggest seasonal increase in traffic on England’s major A roads. During the summer it carries almost a quarter (23.1 per cent) more vehicles than during the rest of the year.
After the A458, comes the A30 in the West Country (19.2 per cent increase) and the A2070 in Kent heading towards the coast and Camber Sands (16.1 per cent). The road with the fourth biggest increase is the A494 just north of Chester which runs into North Wales (15 per cent) and fifth is the A31 through the New Forest (13.1 per cent).
Full details can be viewed here.
A47) In 2019, 0.3 per cent of all traffic on British roads was estimated to be accounted for by foreign registered vehicles. By vehicle type, lorry traffic had the highest proportion of foreign registered vehicles at 3.9 per cent, this was a decrease of 0.6 percentage points compared to 2017. Foreign registered lorries cabotage accounted for just over 1 per cent of road freight activity within the UK.
The South East region had the highest proportion of foreign registered vehicles of any region within Great Britain in 2019. This likely reflects that the South East is the region of arrival and departure for many motor vehicles coming from Europe through ports and the channel tunnel.
(NB These statistics were not updated in Road Traffic Estimates: Great Britain 2020 and they will be next updated in the 2021 statistics)
A48) National Highways is the government company which plans, designs, builds, operates and maintains England’s motorways and major A roads, known as the strategic road network.
A map of the National Highways network can be found here.
Other roads are managed by local authorities.
A49) The total amount paid out in compensation by local authorities in England and Wales in 2021/22 for damage to persons or vehicles as a result of poor road condition was £8.9 million. The associated staff costs spent processing these claims totalled £11.0 million.
The overall total cost for addressing these compensation claims was therefore £19.9 million – an increase of about 33 per cent over the £15.0 million reported in the previous year. The total cost of compensation claims in 2021/22 is the equivalent of £96.70 paid per mile of road.
A50) In 2021/22, the total number of potholes filled in was 1.7 million – the equivalent of one pothole being repaired every 19 seconds in England (including London) and Wales. This is the same number of potholes filled in as in 2020/21.
The total cost of filling in these potholes was estimated at £107.4 million, up from the £93.6 million reported in the previous year.
A51) The Pothole Action Fund, designed to provide funding for local authorities to fix the potholes on their roads, has run since 2015. Further funding of £2.5 billion was announced in Budget 2020, providing £500 million a year of funding between 2020/21 and 2024/25. The funding will ensure that the equivalent of 10 million potholes can be rectified. The funding is allocated by formula and shared by local highway authorities in England, outside London, between 2020/21 and 2024/25.
Full details can be viewed here.
A52) If you want to report a pothole you can go straight to the authority responsible for the road (most now have an electronic or web-based system available to the public to report potholes and highway faults).
A53) 18 per cent of roads in England (excluding London), 24 per cent of roads in London and 11 per cent of roads in Wales are reported as being in poor structural condition.
Local authorities’ estimate the one-time “catch-up” cost – over and above what local authorities indicate they already receive – to bring their road networks up to scratch has increased by 23 per cent in 2021/22 to £12.64 billion from the £10.24 reported in the previous year. The one-time catch-up cost is an average of £99.1 million per authority in England (excluding London); £25.1 million in London and £29.1 million in Wales.
Even if adequate funding and resources were in place to get roads back into a reasonable condition, it is estimated that to clear the carriageway maintenance backlog will take 9 years in England (excluding London), 8 years in London and 8 years in Wales.
A54) Analysis of the data collected from 196 of the 206 local highway authorities in England, Scotland and Wales who responded to FOI requests from the RAC Foundation about the condition of the bridges they managed has identified 3,211 bridges – defined as structures over 1.5 m in span – as being substandard at the end of 2021. (Substandard means unable to carry the heaviest vehicles now seen on our roads, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes). These bridges make up 4.5 per cent of the total of 70,944 bridges the 196 councils manage between them.
The number of substandard bridges is up 3.4 per cent on the 3,105 figure twelve months previously, and up 5 per cent on the 3,055 figure a year before that. However, it is below the 3,194 total for 2018 and the 3,441 figure for 2017.
Some of the bridges will be substandard because they were built to earlier design standards, whilst others will have deteriorated through age and use. Many of these bridges have weight restrictions. Others will be under programmes of increased monitoring or even managed decline.
Councils also reported that, at the time they responded at the end of 2021, 17 bridges including relatively short structures with a span of at least 1.5 metres had fully collapsed in the previous twelve months. Of these 17 full collapses, 12 were in Dorset and 5 were in Denbighshire. [See clarification at the end of this article.] A further 37 had partially collapsed.
Between them, councils say they would ideally want to bring 2,374 (74 per cent) of the 3,105 substandard bridges back up to full carrying capacity. However, budget limitations mean they anticipate that only 379 of these will have the necessary work carried out on them within the next five years.
The estimated cost to bring all the substandard bridges back up to perfect condition is £1.16 billion (up slightly on the £992 million figure of a year earlier).The study reveals that the one-time cost to clear the full maintenance backlog on all 70,944 bridges would be £5.44 billion.
[CLARIFICATION FROM DORSET COUNCIL. Dorset council has been in touch to say that it incorrectly answered part of the FOI request we submitted to it. Instead of having 12 bridges collapse they in fact had no bridges collapse. Please read the report below with that in mind.]
Source: RAC Foundation
A55) In 2020/21, more than 1,600 bridges were hit by motor vehicles.
The Coddenham Road bridge on the B1078 in Suffolk was the most bashed bridge in 2020/21 after being struck 19 times. The second most struck bridge, the St John’s Street bridge in Lichfield, Staffordshire, was struck 18 times.
Bridge strikes reported across the railway network in the last five financial years are as follows:-
2016/17 – 1,878 strikes
2017/18 – 2,039 strikes
2018/19 – 1,926 strikes
2019/20 – 1,720 strikes
2020/21 – 1,624 strikes
Full details, including a list of the top 10 most struck railway bridges in 2020/21, can be seen here.
Source: Network Rail
A56) The Blue Badge scheme is designed to help people with disabilities or health conditions park closer to their destination. The eligibility criteria and the information that you need to apply for a Blue Badge can be viewed here.
Eligibilty for a badge was extended to people who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm in August 2019.
The way in which a Blue Badge can be used differs in England, Scotland and Wales. Full details can be viewed here.
You can apply for, or re-new, a Blue Badge here.
A57) There were 2.35 million valid Blue Badges on issue in England at 31 March 2021, a decrease of 3.8 per cent (92,000 badges) when compared with the previous year. This decrease continues the declining trend in the number of badges held since 2012, with the exception of an increase in 2020.
On 31 March 2021, 4.2 per cent of the population in England held a valid Blue Badge, down from 4.3 per cent the previous year.